Lots of teachers inspire by opening the door to learning new things. Some special teachers with how they approach their craft can inspire and enrich their charges years after the final school bell has run. One of these for me, and thousands others, was San Lorenzo Valley High’s Lee Overbeck, who died Wednesday from leukemia.
Mr. Overbeck, or “Coach” as many Cougars will forever remember him, left a huge legacy for SLV athletics. He coached several sports, including wrestling, track, soccer and football. As athletic director and physical education teacher, he had a hand in all the other sports, too. But if you ask his students, it is the way he went about his business and how he connected with the students that mattered. I know first-hand as one of his students in the early 1970s.
Recently, the company I work for, the Boardwalk, did a video about teachers and their impact on their students. They asked several employees who made a difference in their lives. Mr. Overbeck was one of two teachers I singled out.
I played on his track and football teams and was also in two of his classes. He was very direct in his instruction. He’d tell me the technique or principle and expect me to get it. Not only would I learn something new, but his method was a life-lesson in responsibility. To this day, I credit him with helping me with an intellectual understanding of sports in general and football in particular.
I’m certainly not alone in my adoration of Mr. Overbeck.
“I will always be grateful that Coach O allowed girls to play o the boys’ JV soccer team before girls’ soccer was in existence,” wrote Marian Green Hofstein on a Facebook page dedicated to SLV graduates. “I went on to play at UCLA and then for 15 years after that. Thanks, Coach, for making it possible!”
Hofstein also went on to a very nice career in Hollywood as a stuntwoman and actress.
The theme of connections with students is universal. He took time with us and that changed our lives. “(He’s) one of the reasons I became a coach,” wrote Mike Ayers.
“What a great coach,” wrote Jim Mamone. “Some of my best memories of high school were playing soccer for him. Truly a gentle giant.”
Cathy Root, who graduated in 1974 and is the Alumni Association guru, remembered Mr. Overbeck as “a man with class … Always a kind man.”
My youngest brother, Bob, a 1976 graduate and a 2006 SLV Hall of Fame inductee, was another in the very long line of students who were positively influenced in his life by Mr. Overbeck.
“He had a knack for bonding with people and giving encouragement,” Bob said. “I can’t remember him saying anything negative to anybody and I don’t remember any curse words coming out of his mouth … He’s the one who convinced me that I should run (to train for football). So we’d run from the high school down the railroad tracks to Santa Cruz with the cross-country team. That got me in love with jogging; I still do it today.”
My best memory of the Coach? Maybe it was the day in varsity football when he came to me and said, “We’re going to play the seniors the rest of the year, so you’re the starting right cornerback on Saturday against Watsonville.”
I want to believe that Mr. Overbeck recently was the recipient of that type of conversation. “Coach, you’re now in my starting lineup. Thank you for positively shaping the youth of SLV all these years.”
Amen. And thank you, Coach.